“If this is a life threatening emergency, hang up and call 911. For English, press 1.” 1. “To schedule an appointment, press 2.” 2. “Hi, my name is Kelly. How can I help you?” Hi Kelly. I need to schedule an appointment. “Okay! Can I get a name and a date of birth?” Angelique Peterson, 04/04/1997. “What is the reason for the visit?” Depression. “Do you have a psychiatrist you visit?” I have a psychologist. “So, what is the reason for the visit?” Depression. Specifically, medication. “Oh. Um, I can get you in on December 15th at 9 a.m. Would that work?” That’s over two weeks away. Is there any sooner time? “That’s our first available opening. Oh, and it looks like we don’t take your insurance.” Great.
Trying to get help while you still want to get help is half of the problem.
The living room was always dark and warm and safe; mom kept the lights in the living room turned off. Thirty minutes before I woke up, she’d turn on the heating unit to “get the chill out” for me. She let me eat my breakfast on the couch with a tv tray. She didn’t let my siblings do that as children. My love for my mother knew no bounds. I remember crying, begging, pleading to stay home with her. Each morning, tears filled my eyes as the lump in my throat grew larger and larger until my cries turned into hoarse hiccups. Sometimes she’d hug me and laugh at my “big crocodile tears”. Sometimes, with a fist clenched around a whisk or a ladle, she’d threaten me to keep crying. Sometimes she’d humor me, roll her eyes, and let me stay. I know she thought I was faking, but the pain was excruciatingly real. Like clockwork, my stomach would twist into a mass of tangled knots every morning. I was expressing my emotional pain the only way I knew how. Physically.
I was always troubled, wound up tight, and confused. I thought it was normal to have achey muscles from the constant tension of dealing with not only life, but also the barrage of self doubt. I thought it was normal to think about what this place would be like without me. Is that what would finally show them that what I’m feeling is real? I don’t want to die. I never have. “It’ll get better” is stuck deep in my ribs and I want to see what better is like. But there’s a point when you’ve been so overlooked and so beaten down that you wonder, “When will someone notice on their own?”
We ate a full roll of Mentos. Well, I did. You ate two when I asked out of obligation, but I didn’t ask again. Maybe the peppermint got to me, or maybe it was the fact that I always feel like I don’t belong, but I started to cry. You patted my back and said all the right things.
Once I had dried off and wrung myself out, things were back to normal. We watched two episodes of a 44 minute tv show, which was exactly long enough for me to calm down, forget, and remember again. “Maybe you should see a doctor…” The six words no one wants to hear. My face contorted, softened, and then began looking for an escape route. I chuckled and said, “Probably”. I’ve never gotten past probably.
My mind is a crate full of bees. At peace, they hum quietly while they work. Coming and going as they please, every thought is recognized and stored away in an easy manner. I go about my day without resistance, until the hive is disturbed. A passing comment, a bad attitude, a funny look, a feeling of incompetence. I don’t have any control over these happenings, so why should they bother me? Immediately, thoughts slam around violently, aching to escape. Scenarios flash before my eyes. I’m forced to live out every outcome, over and over again. Unable to move, I remain fixated on the problem I’ve just created in my mind. Withdrawn from the outside world, I seem merely drowsy, like a bee on a hot summer’s day.
“Where are you off to now?” is my parent’s usual farewell when I’m back at home for a break. As I search for my keys, I’ll check the boxes of their list: Where, When, With Who, Love You. Two sets of haggard eyes watch the door shut behind me. Guilt builds up in back of my throat as I hop in my car and jet off to my destination.
Sometimes the guilt wins. I walk back inside my childhood home, sit down beside my mother, and spend some quality time with my parents. The three of us quietly watch a movie that none of us enjoy. When it’s over, my mother is snoring and my father has already crept off to bed. The silence is sickening as I walk down the narrow hall to my bedroom. My eyes scan the modest layout and come to rest on the focal point of the room: my bed.
I spent years of my life laying in that bed, obediently defeated. No one asked why I would spend hours, days, weeks, sleeping away my life. Confusion and melancholy filled my bones until they ached to be back in the safety of fleece and cotton. Not one hand reached out to dull the pain. Not one mouth spoke words of comfort. I was left to my own devices to escape. Where am I off to now? Anywhere but here.
Being raised by a hardened Marine and a devout Catholic had a serious effect on my social skills. Emotions weren’t allowed in my childhood home. Anger was bottled; sadness was hidden away. It’s easy to idealize my personality because of this learned repression. Describing myself is fun with buzz words like easy going, nonchalant, and tolerant. They’re simple and conceal the unfortunate truth. I have absolutely no idea how to interact and connect with another human being. My instinct to maturely express myself is stunted. Empathy is never my first reaction and I still haven’t learned how to apologize. I let people walk all over me. That way I don’t have to engage. All my true feelings are locked up, which leaves my disposition to seem unoccupied and aloof. When prompted to open up, my internal vacancy overcomes any attempt to truly identify with another. One day, I’ll find a way to climb out of the void or I’ll blow.
It’s a buzzing in the joints and an itch around your shoulder blades. Sometimes it’s a shock, but it’s always a hum. Anxiety is electric. It moves through your body quickly. You don’t notice it at first. It creeps up on you, completing its circuit a thousand times before you realize it. The thoughts are generated first and there’s constantly a full charge. They bounce around the inside of your skull with enough energy to blow power lines. Tics spark up all over your system. Twitchy fingers subconsciously ruin manicures and peel lips. The land of discontent is having a thunderstorm and you’re the lightning bolt.